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by J. Robert Lennon
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This is a really good book. Reminded me of Murakami, also reminded me of a really good young adult book called Measle and the Wrathmonk. Has a little of a Charlie Kaufmann feel - psychological mystery, fun characters, weird unexpected wrinkles in reality. The leaps it takes are just far enough to keep you engaged in following the thread, and makes for a compelling read. I got through it in two days, this was a library thing recommendation and man that algorithm nailed it.
What a weird book and not even translated this time! I have my suspicions about what it all means that I won't spoil here. The details have almost a dreamlike, unconscious quality. It's like if you mashup David Lynch projects with Alice in Wonderland. I will say, it looks like my second hand copy here was thrown across a room by the previous reader, if that tells you anything? Didn't hate it, didn't love it.
*Book #124/304 I have read of the shortlisted Morning News Tournament of Books competitors
This is a weird one. Set in a place called the subdivision, cut off from the city for unknown reasons, a woman arrives at a bed and breakfast sort of place with no idea of who she is, but she plans to find a place to live and a job. There's a puzzle, and an odd smart device and a little boy and a badger-monster-guy and some other weird people. For much of the book, it feels random and unstructured, like an extended dream sequence in an experimental film. And then all the pieces fall into place, sort of.
I dragged myself through this book but ended up delighted, but also not entirely sure what to think of it all. My least favorite kind of book is the ones were outside forces make random changes (not big on books that rely on magic or elves or powerful forces) so that the reader never has solid ground underfoot and this felt like that, until the moment when it didn't. I'm looking forward to getting to find out what other people think of this one.
I really like this novel. With its symbolism, mythology, and dream-like surrealism, it feels a little like a cross between Ulysses and the movie Mulholland Drive. This novel has what I love from fiction: lessons that characters learn obliquely and often accidentally, the way all of us in the real world learn lessons, if we manage to learn them at all.
A heady, inventive, fantastical novel about the nature of memory and the difficulty of confronting trauma An unnamed woman checks into a guesthouse in a mysterious district known only as the Subdivision. The guesthouse's owners, Clara and the Judge, are welcoming and helpful, if oddly preoccupied by the perpetually baffling jigsaw puzzle in the living room. With little more than a hand-drawn map and vague memories of her troubled past, the narrator ventures out in search of a job, an apartment, and a fresh start in life. Accompanied by an unusually assertive digital assistant named Cylvia, the narrator is drawn deeper into an increasingly strange, surreal, and threatening world, which reveals itself to her through a series of darkly comic encounters reminiscent ofGulliver's Travels. A lovelorn truck driver . . . a mysterious child . . . a watchful crow. A cryptic birthday party. A baffling physics experiment in a defunct office tower where some calamity once happened. Through it all, the narrator is tempted and manipulated by the bakemono, a shape-shifting demon who poses a distinctly terrifying danger. Harrowing, meticulous, and deranged,Subdivisionis a brilliant maze of a novel from the writer Kelly Link has called "a master of the dark arts." With the narrative intensity and mordant humor familiar to readers ofBroken River, J. Robert Lennon continues his exploration of the mysteries of perception and memory.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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The unnamed narrator (a young woman it seems) has arrived in the subdivision seemingly to start a new life. She takes a room at the guest house run by two older women, Clara and the Judge. However, both women are named Clara and both are retired judges, so our narrator is never sure which woman is Clara and which the Judge.
Besides constantly urging the narrator to work on the puzzle (which is constantly changing), Clara and the Judge give her a hand-drawn map of the subdivision as well as leads on how to find permanent housing and a job. The road to the city is blocked off. On her first day exploring, the narrator purchases an Alexa-like device. named Cylvia, which provides advice and assistance and which is constantly mutating. She also comes across the bakemono, a sort of shape-shifting demon who will be a threatening feature through-out. Cylvia helpfully warns her, "You must not fornicate with the bakemono."
The NYT described this as an "enigma packed with miniature mysteries." I don't usually like novels that are dream-like and feature seemingly pointless journeys, but I did quite like this one, and I'm still trying to figure out why.
3 1/2 stars ( )